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October 10, 2005
War by prejudice from the BBC

Yesterday, BBC Radio Four broadcast a programme called ‘A war Against Prejudice’, which looked at the work of the British Jewish defence organisation the Community Security Trust, and the broader issue of the rise in anti-Jewish feeling against which the CST was helping defend the Jewish community in Britain. I was interviewed for this programme, but I listened to it with mounting horror and a sick feeling in my stomach. It started neutrally enough, by describing the work of the CST in providing protection for the community and collating statistics about anti-Jewish incidents, and interviewed some Jews about attacks. But then it set out to demonstrate that the CST had exaggerated this problem by inflating its statistics. It produced no evidence to support this smear, merely assertions, and it was careful — with one notable exception — to use Jews to do so. One was Tony Lerman, whose undoubted knowledge of Jewish sociology has been vitiated in recent years by his conviction that there has been no increase in anti-Jewish feeling in this country and that anyone who says there has is merely trying to sanitise the crimes of Ariel Sharon. The other was a rabbi called Gluck who was involved in Jewish-Muslim dialogue and -- surprise surprise -- saw no evidence of anti-Jewish feeling whatsoever. These two individuals are utterly unrepresentative of the mainstream Jewish community.

The third accuser of the CST was Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain. Now this was really something else. Here is what Bunglawala himself had to say on the subject of Jews some years ago:

'1) 'The Jews consider themselves to be God’s chosen people - although the blessed prophet Jesus called them the children of the Devil (John 8:44) - and so can do just whatever the hell they like'.

2) He cited claims that the Zionist movement is 'at the core of international banking and commerce' and observed 'Nonsense? You be the judge'.

3) 'The chairman of Carlton Communications is Michael Green of the Tribe of Judah. He has joined an elite club whose members include fellow Jews Michael Grade [then the chief executive of Channel 4 and now BBC chairman] and Alan Yentob [BBC2 controller and friend of Salman Rushdie]. The three are reported to be "close friends… so that's what they mean by a 'free media.'

One might have thought that, in a programme ostensibly looking at anti-Jewish prejudice, Bunglawala might have been asked about the views he had once expressed. One might have thought he would have been asked about the MCB’s stated aim to abolish Holocaust day, and its many inflammatory statements about Israel and the Holocaust. One might have thought he would have been asked about the sale by Muslims on campus of that iconic text of Jew-hatred, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and the regular attacks and abuse of Jewish students by Muslims. One might have thought he would have been asked about the contribution to anti-Jewish prejudice in Britain being made by the poisonous hated of Israel and the Jews pouring out of the Arab and Muslim world.

But no, he was asked none of these things. Indeed, the programme did not mention Islamic attacks upon Jews at all. Instead, it used Lerman, Gluck and Bunglawala to rubbish the claim that there was a rise in anti-Jewish feeling in Britain. It clearly set out to do this; the difference between the hostile questioning of myself, for example, and the easy ride given to these three was unmistakeable. There was absolutely no attempt by the programme to explain where the current anti-Jewish feeling was coming from, or to analyse it at all; it was apparently just a paranoid claim to be knocked down.

Anyone who talks to the police will know that the Jewish community in Britain has to be guarded against the very real threat of attack from both Muslims and neo-Nazis. Every single synagogue or communal event has to be guarded. It is a threat we Jews all live with, daily. We also have to live daily with the pathological hatred of Jewish nationhood that now courses through this country’s media, along with routine claims of a global Jewish conspiracy. The BBC was at it again this morning on Radio Four’s Start the Week with an unchallenged implication of sinister Jewish power; look at this post by Adloyada for yet further evidence of the way this ancient racial libel has now been assimilated without challenge into mainstream media discourse.

This is what the journalist Simon Winchester said on Start the Week: that in New York there was a growing move towards orthodoxy, that young Jews were now 'cajoling or impressing' on others the need to go to temple and at the same time the 'steady drumbeat of Zionist enthusiasm' was increasing so that far from attitudes becoming 'more benign' they were hardening, which was 'bad for everyone'. So now, we have arrived at the happy state where a British journalist says on air that orthodox Judaism is 'bad for everyone' without anyone turning a hair. And of course, orthodoxy and Zionism don't in fact go together, but hey; and now we find that it's not just the settlers in Israel who are extreme but Zionism itself. In other words, the self-determination of the Jewish people is said to be 'bad for everyone'. And no-one turns a hair.

Instead, a BBC radio programme makes out that the claim of a rise in anti-Jewish feeling in Britain is all total exaggeration, that the CST produces dodgy statistics and that there really is no threat to the Jews at all.

So all the attacks on synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, on this account, are not anti-Jewish attacks at all; all the attacks on people in the street, with Stars of David torn off their necks or anti-Jewish taunts thrown at them, aren’t anti-Jewish attacks at all; all the intimidation meted out to Jewish students on campus aren’t anti-Jewish attacks at all; all the racial stereotypes, lies and libels about Israel and the world Jewish conspiracy that assault British Jews daily when they open their newspapers, go to dinner parties or tune into the wretched BBC aren’t anti-Jewish attacks at all. And the CST, whose unpaid volunteers are an essential defence against the physical threat that daily faces the Jews of Britain is made out instead to be a dubious outfit.

No mention of the fact that the Metropolitan and Manchester police promote the CST, rely upon it and regard it as a model for community action; no mention that the Home Affairs Select Committee lauded it and advised the Muslim Council of Britain to ask it for help; no mention that the European Union Monitoring Centre has recommended its systems to European governments and law enforcement agencies and that the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe is using it for training NGOs and law enforcement agencies. No discussion of the phenomenon it is fighting. Instead, a hatchet job.

A advance synopsis of the programme on the website of CTVC, the production company that made it, revealed the animus that lay behind it:

'File On Four’s prestigious reporter, Gerry Northam, uncovers the myths and realities of anti-semitism in Britain today, through the controversial activities of its defence organisation, the Jewish Community Trust. This is the first time the story has been told of British Judaism’s “private volunteer army” – its security operations, training, intelligence-gathering and influential (hyped and hysterical, critics say) reports on anti-semitism.'

The CST’s activities are not in the least controversial. To describe it as a ‘private volunteer army’ makes it sound like a sinister, covert militaristic organisation that people should be worried about, when in fact it is merely a bunch of public-spirited civilians defending their own community against attack.

In social gatherings, one nowadays runs the gauntlet of sneering and incredulous bien-pensants for whom the assertion that Israel is the victim of aggression is regarded on a par with supporting apartheid South Africa, and for whom the suggestion that life has become uncomfortable for British Jews is regarded as evidence of Jewish special pleading. Consciously or unconsciously, this country is setting out to expunge the reality of Jewish victimhood and replace it by the narrative of toxic Jewish power.

A war against prejudice? No, this is war by prejudice. I have said it before, and here it is again: Britain’s Jews – including those who, in tragic repetition of history, refuse to see it – are under siege.

Posted by melanie at October 10, 2005